An Unwelcome Returnee to the University of Leicester

Last month a former student at the University of Leicester returned to town to become the university’s latest Chancellor. The name of the man this honour was bestowed upon was none other than New Labour apparatchik Lord Bruce Grocott: an individual whose parliamentary career included serving as the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the notorious war criminal Tony Blair (between 1994 and 2001). No doubt with such a delightful background his Lordship will be able to contribute  — in the University’s words – towards “re-framing the values that govern academia and re-defining what a university needs to be in the 21st century.” As Upton Sinclair observed many years ago: “the plutocracy is immortal; and it is necessary that fresh generations should be trained to its service.”

In addition to serving on the board of governors of Birmingham City University, Lord Grocott makes sure he has time to work for the Conservative peer Baroness Cumberlege’s healthcare consultancy, Cumberlege Connections Ltd. Baroness Cumberlege being the former Health Secretary, current chair of the Associate Parliamentary Health Group, and patron of 2020health — a think tank dedicated to destroying the NHS (see “2020health Patrons and their vested interests”). 2020Health is headed by Daily Mail blogger Julia Manning, and their advisory council includes the likes of Gregory Shenkman — a former Managing Director of N M Rothschild. It would certainly be intriguing (perhaps sickening) to ask Lord Grocott why he is working for Baroness Cumberlege: but then again I guess the answer is fairly obvious.

Such dubious connections are par for the course for the University of Leicester; Lord Grocott’s predecessor at the University being Sir Peter Williams, who stepped down in 2010 after five years of sterling service. Sir Peter brought the University stellar connections to the corporate world as during his time as Chancellor he was a board member of the global engineering group GKN plc (between 2001 and 2010), serving (between 2008 and 2010) alongside the present pro-chancellor of Loughborough University, Richard Parry-Jones.

Moreover during Sir Peter’s last year at GKN he worked on the boardroom with Michael Turner, who at the time was also the chairman of Babcock International Group plc (and still is), having then recently retired as the former head of leading British military contractor BAE Systems plc. Babcock is the UK’s leading engineering support services organisation and current board members include anti-democratic elements like counter-terrorism tzar Sir David Omand, who profits handsomely from his prolific warmongering by residing on the boardroom of Finmeccanica, the fourth largest defence manufacturer in Europe. Here one should observe that one notable advisor to the Babcock Group is the former Director General of the Confederation of British Industry, Lord Digby Jones, who in addition to providing career advice for Thales (another defence contractor) is a board member of Leicester Tigers Rugby Club.

Finally, during Sir Peter Williams tenure at the University of Leicester he served as a board member of the international engineering giant, WS Atkins plc — a company where he has worked since the late 1980s and now serves as their Managing Director. Here Sir Peter would certainly have become chummy with Stephen Billingham, who was Atkins’ Group Finance Director between 2000 and 2004, and who just last year became the chairman of the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, one of the largest hospital trusts in the UK. Fittingly, Billingham amplifies his passion for privatization with his work as the chairman of Punch Taverns (which runs around 5,000 pubs nationwide), and by sitting on the board room of the uranium enrichment company URENCO.

With many working-class students now unable to afford to obtain a university education, now more than ever it is vital that we all, whatever our age, fight for a free and decent education system for all. Warmongers and corporate profiteers have no place in any democratic education system!


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